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When was the last time you felt stressed, and looked up on the internet for some kind of information on mental health? Research shows that 1 out of 5 people in India need counselling at some point in their lives. However, due to the stigma and lack of awareness on the subject, many of us hesitate to consult a counsellor and instead rely on the internet to self-diagnose and solve mental health problems. If you can relate to this, here’s all you need to know about counselling and types of counselling so that you no longer have to shy away from seeking help when you need it.
What is Counselling?
Counselling is a process wherein healing happens through sharing with a professionally trained expert (usually called a counsellor or therapist). The counsellor supports the “client” (person seeking counselling) by offering them a confidential and non-judgmental space to share about their concerns in detail, and collaboratively find ways to resolve those concerns.
How is it different from sharing with friends or family?
Friends and family can be a great source of support; however, they may often give advice or suggest quick fixes to your problems based on their own opinion or judgment of what is right and wrong.
A counsellor on the other hand is trained to listen openly, without personal bias and use their knowledge of psychology and human behaviour to guide you in finding your own solutions. Hence it is no surprise that 92% of Indians in an awareness survey said that people with mental illness should visit a specialist or doctor.
A key aspect that sets counselling apart, is confidentiality, which means that counsellors are ethically bound to keep information private and not discuss with anyone else about what clients share. Sometimes, counsellors seek supervision (professional consultation from another qualified mental health expert to refine their practice or approach) and even in such situations, no personal details or identifying information of the client will be shared. This principle is in place so that a client can feel more comfortable and freer to talk about personal thoughts and experiences.
How do I know if I need counselling?
Counselling is a service available to anyone who is facing challenges in everyday life (such as with work, family, or personal habits). The concern can range from something relatively mild such as not being able to manage time properly, to something more severe such as depression or trauma.
If you are curious to know more, here is an article on the common myths and facts about counselling.
Types of Counselling
Firstly, there are different types of counselling defined according to the purpose of counselling:
- Mental health counselling – This is the most common type of counselling, which involves helping people of different age groups cope with everyday challenges as well as mental health concerns like stress, anxiety and depression. This can also include clinical treatment / therapy for conditions like autism, ADHD, Bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia.
- Rehabilitation Counselling – This is a specific type of counselling devoted to advocating for and supporting people struggling with physical or mental disability. This could also include counselling and rehabilitation for substance abuse and addiction. Rehabilitation counsellors use systematic approaches to empower people with the skills to live independently and integrate well into their communities.
- Education and Career Counselling – This type of counselling specifically focuses on helping people understand their skills and interests and make informed decisions/choices regarding their education and career.
Secondly, there are different formats in which counselling can be conducted, based on the number of people involved in a counselling session:
- Individual counselling – This refers to a one-on-one interaction involving the counsellor and the individual client, wherein counselling space and time is dedicated for this one person to share and work on their concerns.
- Couple and Family Counselling – This format is suitable for people who want to work on their relationship concerns jointly. Many relationship problems can be better resolved if both or all parties involved, are willing to discuss the concerns and resolve them together. Couple/Marriage counselling often involves two people who are in a romantic relationship or marriage, and family counselling may include any two or more people from a family, such as a parent and child, or both parents with their children, adult couple with their parents and in-laws, etc.
- Group Counselling – This is a format of counselling wherein a fixed number of people come together for each session and are supported by a counsellor in coping with a common concern everyone has. For example, there are counselling groups for depression, or groups for women who are divorced, or groups for people who want to quit smoking, etc. The purpose of group counselling is that sharing with others who are going through the same or similar experiences often fosters a sense of connection and support, making it easier to cope with concerns that might otherwise feel overwhelming or isolating to deal with alone.
Lastly, counselling can take place in different modes:
- Online – In this mode, people connect with counsellors over the phone, video calls, chat or email.
- Face-to-Face – In this mode, the counsellor and client meet in person, at the counsellor’s office or clinic, which is usually a private, designated space where necessary arrangements are made such as appropriate seating, water, tissues, notepads, etc.
These are all the various types of counselling designed to suit the different requirements of people. Each type of counselling has its own advantages, and you can choose the type you want, based on your unique needs and preferences.
Process of counselling
The counselling process broadly involves the following stages:
- The Counsellor introduces themselves, their qualifications, their approach to counselling, and the structure of the process, and open space for any doubts you may have.
- The counsellor uses active listening skills to communicate their interest in your experiences so that you feel comfortable opening up and can trust the process.
- Once there is trust and comfort, the counsellor will gather basic information about you such as your age, gender, sexuality, education and work, living situation, details of close relationships, and relevant health history so that they have better context about you and your experiences.
- The counsellor will then explore the main concerns that bring you to counselling, try to understand the main sources/causes of these concerns and also how they are impacting you. They may also discuss with you about solutions you have already tried, to get an understanding of what has worked, and what hasn’t.
- This information is used to assess the nature of your concerns, the intensity/severity, and the reasons underlying the concern, so that you can both identify a suitable course of therapy.
- In this stage, the counsellor will collaborate with you to set specific goals that you can work towards, through the counselling process. For e.g. the concern you shared may be that you avoid social situations, and through assessment, you have identified that the reason for this is that you find it hard to say no. So, the counselling goal you might set is to learn how to become more assertive.
- The goals can be short-term or long-term, or both. Short term goals usually involve learning specific skills that can make situations easier or more manageable for you. Long-term goals are focused on addressing the root causes of your concerns.
This is the stage where the counsellor will use specific theories/ approaches to help you move towards your counselling goals. There are various approaches that counsellors specialize in. Some of the most common approaches are: –
- Psychodynamic Counselling: focusing on childhood/past experiences and how they contribute to your present concerns
- CBT or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: identifying negative thinking about self, others and the future, and learning to build more realistic and helpful thinking patterns.
- Humanistic therapy: helping you reach your best potential by providing a safe and accepting environment.
- Art therapy: using various forms of art and self-expression to facilitate healing.
Based on their specialization, the counsellor will tailor their approach to suit your pace and comfort and make the process most effective for you.
It is at this stage that your efforts become even more crucial – you may be required to try out new strategies, practice new skills, and push yourself out of your comfort zone to overcome old habits and build new, healthier ones.
Evaluation and Termination (or Referral)
- Evaluation – The counsellor and you will together evaluate the progress you are making, and accordingly modify the action plan if needed. At this stage, your honest feedback becomes very valuable, so that the counsellor can understand how the process is working for you, and if any changes need to be made in their approach, or in the efforts from your end.
- Termination and follow-up – Once the counselling goal is reached, you and the counsellor can mutually decide to terminate (end) the counselling sessions after reviewing the work you have done so far. After ending the sessions, some counsellors schedule a follow-up call for a few weeks or months later, to check-in on how you are doing.
- Referral – In case the concern remains unresolved, or if the counsellor finds that you might benefit from a different approach, or if there is a new concern you’re facing that is beyond their scope of expertise, then the counsellor will make a referral to a different counsellor who you can connect with thereon. The referral process is usually well structured, and the counsellor will help you through the transition.
This is a description of the general steps involved in the counselling process. The nuances of this may vary depending on the specific concern you are facing, your comfort and readiness, and the approach used by your counsellor. In any case, for the counselling process to be fruitful, it is essential that you are open, honest, and committed to the process and put in the effort required to work through your concerns and achieve your goals.
Now that you have information on all you need to know about counselling, why delay? Reach out to 1to1help for our EAP services!
What is the difference between Counselling and therapy?
While these two terms are often used interchangeably, a subtle difference is that counselling is usually a brief, structured process for working on specific goals which are usually more immediate/short-term, whereas therapy is a more long-term process for coping with severe distress, managing deep rooted concerns, or working on personality changes.
How long does each counselling session last?
One counselling session typically lasts for about 45-55 minutes.
How does counselling help?
Counselling can help people cope with problems of everyday living, such as concerns at work, in close relationships, or to work towards personal well-being goals. People also seek counselling to work through common mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety and trauma.